Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Eat, and Love Yourself’, out July 8 from BOOM! Box, and imprint of BOOM! Studios.
THIS ADVANCE REVIEW OF ‘EAT, AND LOVE YOURSELF’ CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Lauren Fernandes. Pause.
Shut your eyes, gently. Don’t crush them together. Be gentle with yourself. Breathe. Relax your shoulders, maybe roll your neck a little. Unclench your jaw. Breathe again. Deep breaths.
Now, open your eyes and look in the mirror. What do you see? If the little mean voices in your head are chatty, if they throw a magnifying glass on every imperfection, guiding you into a fixation that sits on your chest and makes it hard to breathe while simultaneously making you feel hollow and empty, then this book is for you. If your heart rattled with too-close memories just reading that, this book is for you.
Sweeney Boo’s Kickstarter-funded, BOOM! Studios-adopted graphic novel Eat, and Love Yourself is a story that delves into the cyclical nature of life with body dysmorphia, depression, and eating disorders. It confronts that chasm, that pervasive, consuming hollowness that is mental health struggles with a magical chocolate bar that transports you into moments of your past that demand your attention, demand self-reflection.
Sweeney takes us on this journey with Mindy. Mindy is, on the surface, like a lot of mid-twentysomethings. She rocks great blue hair, big chonky glasses, and goes out for drinks or dancing with her friends. But those surface perceptions leave a lot undiscovered, and Sweeney knows it. Instead of glossing over the realities of depression, Sweeney puts a magnifying glass on how people can appear so functional even while struggling with something as intense as an eating disorder. I mean, Mindy has a job, right? She has friends, a cat, even her own place. How bad can things really be? In the telling of Mindy’s story, Sweeney spotlights the ways those closest to us can miss the monsters that become the pillars of our lives, because we are cloaked in a surface illusion of “functional.”
The opening frame is stunning, and on its own could be used to prove Sweeney is as adept with her art as she is with storytelling. Mindy sits in a packed club, the energy and noise of the vibrant, bumping crowd in stark contrast with her as she sits, nursing a coke and fries, staring into a vast abyss of happy people she can’t seem to connect with.
Then you look closer, and you see that the crowd is made up of alternative Mindies. Happy Mindies. My heart broke. She envisions herself as a part of the lively world surrounding her, instead of separate from it. She sits, wondering what is wrong with her, why she is so disconnected, why she is overwhelmed by an emptiness so great it has become a physical thing she must carry everywhere.
In these first three pages, Sweeney successfully connects to anyone that has experienced what Mindy is going through in that club. The imagery, the narration, and the colors—credit to Joana Lafuente—combine perfectly. Lafuente’s color choices show distinctions between the vibrant, joyful life in which Mindy imagines herself (splashes of glowing yellows and golds) and the vast, muted washes she sees when she looks into the crowd. It is artfully done, and done with skillful intention.
Sweeney’s success with Eat, and Love Yourself extends beyond her and Lafuente’s ability to connect readers to the visceral weight of depression and the seemingly endless cycle of eating disorders and body dysmorphia. For one thing, this isn’t a tale of body dysmorphia in which the writer oversimplifies even a single aspect, as is easy to do in your average “just love yourself!” after-school special. Instead, Sweeney leaves so much space for the realities of the mental health challenges Mindy drudges through. There isn’t an “I love myself now, so I’m quitting all the junk food” or an “I love myself so I can eat what makes me happy” moment. Sweeney doesn’t allow anything to be black and white. When Mindy finally confronts her parents, or stands up to her tactless best friend, none of her problems disappear. Instead, Sweeney keeps Mindy heartbreakingly human, allowing us to watch her struggle to grow, to be set back, and to try again.
Another nail Sweeney hits directly on the head is how difficult it can be for the people around us to see or understand what dealing with mental health issues can actually be like. Well-meaning questions and suggestions from loved ones can turn into daggers and thorns when wielded thoughtlessly, and I cheered for Mindy when she finally found the words to express this.
Eat, and Love Yourself tackles some heavy material without pulling punches. Sweeney delivers a beautiful story, interrogating the realities of self-discovery that are harder to swallow. Mindy doesn’t have super powers, she doesn’t change her whole universe, or even the café where she works. She is still a hero. Her battle may be purely internal, but she fights it bravely and she is still a hero.
So pause. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. If you hear the mean voices, breathe again. Feel your lungs expand, contract—they are working just for you. Know that your heart is beating for you. Your body is there, doing its best to keep you going. Be gentle with yourself.
You matter. You are worthy of love. You are brave.
BOOM! Box / BOOM! Studios / $10.99
Written by Sweeney Boo.
Art by Sweeney Boo.
Colors Joana Lafuente.
Letters by David Hopkins.
Translation by Edward Gauvin.
8 out of 10
‘Eat, and Love Yourself’ will be available in comic shops on July 8. Contact your LCS to order it. (Diamond Code: DEC191233)
Check out this 12-page preview of ‘Eat, and Love Yourself’, courtesy of BOOM! Box, an imprint of BOOM! Studios!